This rare first edition of a popular German version of Robinson Crusoe, was published in 1939 in Germany. The high quality coloured wood cuts were made by a German illustrator Alfred Zacharias (1901 – 1998). They were made on the eve of WWII, in the time of Nazism in Germany, and depict Friday, the coloured man, as a friend of white Robinson, what was highly controversial at the time. Nevertheless, the book became a great success and was republished and reprinted many times in the next years and decades.
The story of Robinson Crusoe was based on a real life experience by a sailor Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned on Juan Fernández Island (today Robinson Crusoe Island ) for over four years, between 1704-1709. Upon his return a book based on his life was published with a title Fame of having lived four Years and four Months alone on the Island of Juan Fernandez, which inspired Daniel Defoe (circa 1660-1731) to write The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.
This first edition of Robinson Crusoe was supposed to be only an unimportant entertaining book. It was Defoe’s 412th publication and he wrote it, because he needed money for his daughter’s wedding. It was published anonymously on April 25, 1719, and war republished in on May 9, June 4, August 7 etc without definitive manuscript.
The book was a major success and soon many different variations of text with various names and stories appeared in different languages. The stories varied from entertaining and educational to moralising.
The word Robinsonade was first invented by German writer Johann Gottfried Schnabel in the Preface of his 1731 work Die Insel Felsenburg (The Island Stronghold).
References: Aiga KLOTZ, Kinder- und Jugendliteratur in Deutschland 1840–1950: Band V: T–Z., 1999, 8514/9: Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series: 1940-1943, Teil 1, p. 10272; apl. Professor Dr. Frank Möbus, Robinsons Freitag in Kinderbüchern der Nachkriegszeit (http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/ebook/aw/2005/nuetzl_vergnuegen/moebus.pdf).